The artist returns

Art Issue 150 May, 2014

After more than a decade, Jan Salter lets her inner artist step forth again.

With four dogs barking loudly at strangers while circling her protectively, it’s easy to see why Jan Salter is known more for being the founder of Kathmandu Animal Treatment Center (KAT) and less for her artwork.

“Kathmandu is a floating population,” says Salter, who had to choose between her art and KAT in 2003. “People here change all the time and no one remembers me as an artist anymore.”

Salter first came to Nepal in 1968. The variety in facial features of the different ethnic groups that she saw in the country drew her back in 1975, this time for good. Carrying the art equipment she brought with her, Salter traveled across Nepal, first working with pencil and pad, and later branching into oils, to paint the faces she saw.

“It’s a melting pot of faces,” she says. “When you walk down Ason, you see so many different features.”
Her pencil and oil illustrations of the different ethnic groups of the country were featured in the book Faces of Nepal. A collaboration with Dr. Harka Gurung, the book, which combined Gurung’s writings on Nepal’s different ethnicities with Salter’s pictures of the same, was published in 1996.

It is the same Faces of Nepal that will be on display in her first exhibition in years this May, albeit not in full due to space restraints.
“I hope to rebuild interest in the different ethnic groups,” says Salter. Her conversations with young Nepalis made her realize that many did not know much about their heritage but were certainly eager to learn more.

That, in a nutshell, is the impetus behind her exhibition.

Salter’s selection of drawings and paintings titled Faces of Nepal will be displayed at the Nepal National Ethnographic Museum in mid-May for two weeks. The artist has no idea what will happen to her work once the exhibition is over but she does hope to find a permanent place to house her collection.